I’ve finally managed to get some pictures of my mermaid Humboldt sweater! I finished knitting it months ago, but it was far too warm to wear it for some modelled pictures. I took the sweater up to Edinburgh, where I was competing with my quidditch team in Highlander Cup VII (we won by the way) and managed to get some pictures.
All in all, I spent over a year working on this project. I consider that to be time very well spent. I was able to transform two garments that weren’t getting any love into a new sweater that I hope will bring me joy for many years to come.
When I first learnt to knit ten years ago, I was definitely more of an ‘item’ knitter than a ‘process’ knitter. I was desperate to finish projects, sometimes staying up all night to get them done. As the years have gone on, I’ve become aware of how important it is to plan a project. To swatch, to measure, to research yarn. As I’ve spent time on these preparatory stages, I’ve started to enjoy them for their own sake. I feel confident that all the work will pay dividends. And there is pleasure to be taken from the planning itself- from being meticulous, from experimenting and thinking deeply about what I am creating.
Fortunately, this fits in perfectly with my burgeoning anti-consumerist values. Just because you’re a maker doesn’t make you immune from the pernicious influence of fast fashion. It’s easy to feel like you need to churn out a certain number of projects each month, or that you need to compulsively buy yarn or fabric for your stash. I don’t want to become a Smaug enviously guarding a big pile of fibre. I want a carefully curated wardrobe full of items that I enjoy making and wearing.
This is probably the most alterations I have made to a pattern:
- Very different gauge
- Worked pattern with less ease than recommended
- Held yarn triple to incorporate ombre effect
- Provisional cast-on and tubular cast-off used throughout
- Altered neckline
I also did so much ripping that I have probably knit this sweater 1.5 times:
- Unravelled a load of the body because I wasn’t happy with the ombre
- Unravelled most of a sleeve to incorporate all of my remaining turquoise yarn
- Unravelled the neckline twice to get it to look the way I wanted
I’m glad that I am much more at peace with ripping and re-knitting these days. Again, it is part of the process.
Humboldt by Anna Maltz
3 skeins Malabrigo sock
4 balls Rowan Kidsilk Haze*
2 balls Rowan Kidsilk Haze Glamour*
I have nearly one ball of the lightest blue Kidsilk and a couple of small balls of the sock yarn remaining
*I held the Rowan yarn double, which is why I used so much
Original cost of materials
Sock yarn: £39
Kidsilk: £50-60 (six balls @8.95 = £53.70 but I can’t remember what I actually paid)
Cost of additional materials
Two balls of KidSilk haze @ 8.95 each = £17.90
Previous posts in this series
Without tempting fate, this should be my last WiP Wednesday about this project. I did quite a lot more work on this sweater after my most recent post about it, which I think is worthy of some blog space.
Finishing the sleeves was quite straightforward and I joined the sleeves and body for the yoke. It was quite fun to work the marlisle pattern again, which was just as well because the first few rounds of the yoke feel incredibly long after the relative speed of the sleeves.
Checking the finished projects on Ravelry, I saw that there was a lot of variability in the necklines. Some knitters (including me) write quite detailed notes on their projects, while others don’t add anything. It was hard to tell how my project was going to turn out. I added a lifeline before working the neck shaping and I’m glad that I did.
A few rows into the neck shaping as written, it became obvious that the pattern is for a boat neck. Boat is one of my least favourite necklines- I just don’t think it suits me. I ripped back to my lifeline before going on holiday.
In the end I decided to tackle changing the neckline in two ways. I added more increases (every other row rather than once every three rows) along the raglan seams in the body on both the front and back. Since I have quite broad shoulders, I don’t like excess fabric to accentuate that part of my body. I also changed the short-row shaping on the front neckline.
I had to do some more ripping when I accidentally knit the additional raglan decreases before I had calculated the changes to the neckline shaping. I used a combination of eyeballing and maths to work out how I wanted it to look. I think I’ve mentioned before that one of my pet peeves is having a t-shirt showing when I am wearing a sweater. I just think it looks messy. So my aim was a close neck that should cover the layer beneath.
I took some pictures of the notebook pages where I did my quick maths. Kate Davies wrote a recent blog post about knitting and creativity. It discusses the idea that knitting is ‘relaxing’ at the expense of allowing knitting to be creative, engaging and absorbing. This relates to the idea that ‘women’s work’ is something straightforward and mindless, or even frivolous.
Even when following a pattern, knitting can involve a lot of processes that are not remotely relaxing. Undoing work can be frustrating. Figuring out how to change a design is a highly creative problem-solving endeavour, bringing to bear all the knowledge one gains through years of practice. It is an engineering project. Part of the reason I write all of these WiP posts is to give an impression of the work that goes on behind the scenes. When you say, “I made it,” most people have no idea of what that actually means.
In the end, I didn’t have quite enough of the light blue kidsilk to finish the sweater, so I had to buy one more ball. Somehow I hadn’t noticed that the balls are £8.95 each last time I went to John Lewis! I will have most of a ball left over.
The neck ribbing is virtually done now, so the final stage will be the finishing. I am using I-cord edging throughout, which I hope will give a very clean finish. It’s currently a bit warm for a sweater, but knowing English weather I imagine I will find an opportunity to get some pics once this garment is ready to wear.
Previous posts in this series
This sweater has been in my WiP basket for several months now. Shortly after my last blog post (and taking this photo), I ran out of turquoise yarn.
I was also a bit uncertain about how to do the ombre on the sleeves. All in all, I was not feeling so inspired by this project, but fortunately that gave me the impetus to finish my She Loves Wool sweater that had been similarly languishing.
Looking at this photo with fresh eyes, I felt that it probably was time to start changing colours soon. I think it will make sense visually to have the colour change over my elbow.
Another complicating factor was the yarn. I had hoped that I had salvaged enough from my Bay sweater for this whole project but, alas, that was not the case. Even worse, I wasn’t sure which colourways of Kidsilk Haze I was working with.
I’m sure Stitch’n’Bitch, my bible in my early years as a knitter, recommends that you never throw ball bands away and thus avoid these problems. I know I followed that advice for quite some time, but old ball bands are a super annoying thing to have lying around the house. I’ve discarded them all in various house moves.
What would make sense in the modern world would be to record this information on Ravelry. Now-me generally does that (I would like to be more fastidious about including all info, including dye lots), but unfortunately the Monique of 2013 did not. I have the colour recorded as ‘blue-green.’ I was fairly sure that the colour was ‘peacock’ but when I checked the Rowan website, there are two other shades that fit the bill. I had hoped to buy the extra yarn on eBay, but in the end I made the pilgrimage to John Lewis, praying that they had the right colours in stock. I took my swatch with me to compare.
Not an exact match, but perhaps it is unreasonable to expect the colours to be a super close match when you buy extra yarn over six years later.
I wasn’t sure whether I would have enough of the lighter colour either, but I decided not to buy more at this stage. What I will do to try and circumvent that problem is make the section with the sequins longer than originally planned. I also wanted to use up the Kidsilk Haze Glamour.
I spent quite a bit of time knitting over the May bank holiday weekend. I was coming off an incredibly stressful week, and I needed the time to myself.
I finished the second sleeve and realised it made more sense to use up all of the turquoise yarn in the sleeves. Hopefully this will mean I have enough of the pale blue to finish the yoke without having to purchase any additional yarn.
I tried my best to make the sleeves match by weighing the yarn as I went along. Unfortunately I only have digital food scales that measure to the closest gram. Not especially helpful with mohair, which is incredibly light. Hopefully a local drug dealer will donate a more precise scale to one of the charity shops I frequent.
I have now ripped the first sleeve back to the turquoise area to insert the remaining yarn. The sleeves are lovely and quick to work so should be on to the yoke soon.
I really really hope I am going to come out with a sweater that I am happy with. I have put a lot of work into recycling two old garments into this piece so I will be quite heartbroken if I don’t like the way it turns out. That being said, I am having a cropped sweater moment so it should slide seamlessly into my wardrobe as long as all goes to plan.
Previous posts in this series
Not long after writing my last blog post, I tried on my Humboldt sweater and realised that I wasn’t happy with how the gradient was looking. When I calculated how long I wanted each section of colour to be, I didn’t know that I had made a mistake when measuring my Port Charlotte sweater and therefore the dimensions were out. Also, the ribbing section is much more navy than turquoise, meaning that the turquoise section looked way too narrow.
The only viable solution was to rip back to where I finished the turquoise part.
This marl is pretty difficult to photograph! When I was looking yesterday, I couldn’t see much of a difference but now I can. I spent quite a bit of time examining the pattern schematic to try and think about the look of the gradient rather than just calculating it and I’m hoping this way will work out nicely. I will also have to think about how to do the sleeves, which will be much longer than the body.
I’ve managed to finish knitting the body and I think the length is looking as I want it. It feels so weird to be deliberately making a jumper too short!
I managed to cast on my first sleeve so that I could work on it on a flight. Despite the current heatwave in London, I’ve been making decent progress.
Now having a bit of a dilemma about how I want the gradient to look on the sleeves! Maybe it’s time for another lifeline…
Pattern: Humboldt by Anna Maltz
Since first dreaming up the idea of this sweater over a month ago, I have finally managed to cast on!
I decided to use the finishing treatments from Paper Dolls, particularly the i-cord bindoff. I know it looks really good with corrugated rib and I think it will help with the overall effect I’m trying to achieve. I love the finish it gives so much that it’s worth the extra effort. I did a provisional cast-on with some yellow scrap yarn using this method. I will finish with i-cord once the sweater is all done.
It’s hard to knit marlisle quickly! I tried the method Anna suggests in the pattern but it didn’t work for me so I’ve been holding the main colour in my right hand as normal and the additional colour in my left as I would for fair isle. FYI I’m holding the Kidsilk Haze double.
I had decided to be lazy and knit the navy yarn without soaking it. However, you can see in the picture above that it looks really uneven. I mean, I guess it’s understandable given how curly the yarn is.
I wasn’t confident that the knitting would even out enough with blocking so I took the time to soak the yarn to stretch it back out. The knitting is looking much more even now.
I’m feeling a little uncertain about how the sweater is looking so far. The swatch was a little square of perfection but somehow I’m not sure how it’s translating onto a larger scale. The sweater also seems a little bit big but from both measuring and trying on I think I’m on track. I’m going to continue on and just hope for the best since I’ve already put so much work in.
On the plus side, I’m finding this project enjoyable and stimulating to work on. I just really hope that I will feel the final product was worth all the labour.
Pattern: Humboldt by Anna Maltz
Ravelry project page
There’s more work to do before I can even start my exciting mermaid Humboldt project. I was on a bit of a roll when I finished harvesting half of the yarn from an old sweater so it wasn’t long before I started trying to figure out how to unravel the second jumper I am upcyling, my blue ivy cardigan.
Unravelling is a bit like detective work. Since you can only unravel in one direction, you have to figure out (or remember) how the garment was constructed. I find it quite addictive. There are nice sections of long, uninterrupted mindless frogging. Then you get to something like an underarm or collar and you have to work a lot more carefully. I tend to sew up using yarn tails, which adds another layer of complexity. I see it as a challenge to have the yarn in as few sections as possible- that’s what prevents me from getting frustrated and cutting it!
I’m going to freeze this yarn before I work with it. My old house had moths, and I want to make sure that the final sweater is larva-free. I’m feeling quite laissez-faire towards soaking and winding the yarn before I use it. I’m currently leaning towards just giving it a thorough wash when I block it instead.
My She Loves Wool sweater is very much on the back burner at this time. I think mermaid Humboldt feels much more like my creation in comparison to making something from a kit. I feel quite up for creative challenge at the moment, whereas at other times I want mindless crafts to work on.
Malabrigo Yarn Sock in Cot D’Azure
Total amount: a little over 300g
Original cost: £38.97
I was so excited about my latest knitting idea that I started to unravel my Bay sweater pretty quickly.
Just taking the pieces of the jumper apart was several hours’ work. Mohair is very sticky and I quickly realised that seaming using sequinned yarn had been rather stupid. Oh, past me who didn’t know I would one day rip this sweater out! I started to wonder whether this had been such a good idea after all. I worried that separating the sections where two strands of yarn are held together (the light blue) would prove impossible.
Fortunately, things got a bit easier once the sweater was back in its constituent pieces. Unravelling just takes quite a lot of patience. I had to undo each stripe, separating the strands on every other one, and then carefully wind. The yarn isn’t too kinky (quiet at the back, please) so I’m thinking I probably won’t bother with soaking it before I reuse it.
Light blue Kidsilk Haze: 16 balls, 44g
Kidsilk Haze Glamour: 8 balls, 50g
Turquoise Kidsilk Haze: 14 balls, 44g
Finally ripping out my black cabled sweater opened my mind to the idea of turning disaster into triumph. Making is one of my passions in life and I believe it’s okay to spend money on the things you love. However, I’m also aware that I have a lot of cash tied up in unloved handmade items; wasteful both financially and in terms of the raw materials. I feel ready to stop carrying around an archive of mediocre knits and start ripping and reusing.
This change in my attitude got me thinking again about how my creative life might reflect what’s going on for me internally. I hope it means I’m getting ready to let go of emotional habits that do not serve me, changing to something more positive.
One thing that put me off making the Humboldt sweater when I first considered it two years ago was the cost of the yarn. Even using some recycled yarn, I would have to buy at least two skeins of speckled yarn (around £20 each) as the contrast colour.
As well as harvesting some yarn, unravelling took me on a trip down memory lane. I looked back on some of my old blog posts and tried to track when I started documenting projects here and on Ravelry. Seeing my Bay and Blue Ivy sweaters side-by-side on Ravelry got me thinking.
I remember spending a small fortune on the Rowan yarn during my first trip to Liberty of London when I was doing my doctorate. Though I loved the raw materials, the finished sweater was never me. I’ve probably worn it twice.
The navy cardigan got a lot more wear when I first made it. However, it was never quite the garment I hoped it would be. When I was younger, I was obsessed with designing things myself. I think I got this from my mother, who cannot even stand following a recipe. Now, I prefer to leave the hard work of designing to someone else, adding my own twist in smaller ways.
I think this cardigan was the fourth or fifth knitted garment I ever made and I managed to convince myself I was ready to take on a design project. Although the cardigan is okay, it has been unworn for the past couple of years. One of my quirks as a knitter is that I hate semi-solid yarns. I like things to be a uniform, saturated colour.
The juxtaposition had me. What about making a marl with the navy blue and a faded effect created with the kidsilk haze? I had a slight reservation about how the sequinned yarn would fit in, but I loved the idea.
As well as being less wasteful, I have been thinking recently about how I can downsize my stash. I am moving house soon and, as always, I have too much stuff. However, when I was planning this project, a massive advantage was the fact that I keep all my scraps. I had enough leftover yarn from both sweaters to make a gauge swatch and play a little bit with effects.
When I was working on the swatch, I initially preferred the stocking section (a happy accident). However, looking at it now, I think the garter stitch adds to the soft, dreamy effect of the mohair. I’m so happy with this swatch! The fade looks beautiful. The camera doesn’t really capture it, but there’s a lovely lustre to the yarn too.
Unblocked gauge (5mm)
20sts x 31rows = 10cm
18sts x 29 rows = 10cm
Even though my gauge is off, I don’t think it makes sense to go up a needle size. I want a slightly more fitted version of this sweater anyway, so I will just be very careful when calculating the size I am going to make.
I’m thinking that my mermaid Humboldt could be the perfect project for the Upcycle challenge being hosted by #craftblogclub on Twitter. I think the deadline of 25th June is a little ambitious but it still gives me something to work towards. I took part a couple of years ago and made my Cateralls, so I like the idea of doing something very different.
Original cost of navy yarn: £39
Original cost of Kidsilk: £50-60
Pattern: Humboldt by Anna Maltz
I realised that I haven’t posted a satisfactory knitting update in some time, so here is my attempt to redress the balance. My knitting libido (knitbido?) is still quite low this year. I wonder if that’s due in part to taking a sabbatical from the HPKCHC. I’m still working on most of the projects I mentioned in my will-it-ever-end Wednesday post.
I’m still making slow but steady progress on my League sweater. I have finished the back, and I just did the second set of decreases on the front, which means I’m over halfway towards starting the armhole shaping, which is a little more interesting.
I’ve still got both sleeves to do next, so this jumper isn’t going to be finished any time soon. That’s okay, because it’s not woolly jumper weather right now, but if I continue at this pace, maybe I can have it finished for the autumn.
I’ve also made a small amount of progress on this cardigan. I’ve finished the waist increases. I’m going to add some shaping at the back hem for interest.
The most exciting knitting on my needles is the swatch I’m making for a possible Humboldt sweater. This pattern, in particular the use of marl, has really grown on me as the designer occasionally posts about in on Instagram. I’m thinking this would be a lovely cropped jumper to wear over dresses- less boring and warmer than a cardigan. I would probably knit this in Lemonade Shop speckled yarns, like the purple used in the swatch, so this sweater would be a pretty big financial investment. However, I also think that a sweater like this in worsted weight yarn would spark my interest more than the two small gauge projects I’ve got on the go at the moment. Plus, it would plug a gap in my wardrobe.